Friday, April 19, 2013

Happiness vs Contentment Peacock vs Wren

There is an endless search in the human heart (and on every bookshelf and late nite cable channel) to learn how to be, 'happy' - preferably (or laughably) all the time. What an odd thought. What a pointless quest.  Happy comes. Happy goes. It's transitory, elusive, uncommandable, uncontrollable.  Happiness is the rain, the birdsong, the unpredictable gift that arrives of it's own accord. Not scheduled, ordered, planned. Read all the self-help books you care to, you won't (IMHO) discover  the place happiness lives, allowing you to visit it any time you want.

Sad? Depressing? Angering? Hopeless?  Oh no, not at all.

Because tho I grant you it's only my opinion drawn from my thus-far life experience, it's easy to confuse happiness with contentment. Contentment, unlike happiness is something you can plant and grow in your mind, your heart, your outlook.

On any average day you won't necessarily find something to be 'happy about' but what you can (tragedy aside) always find in any average day are a lot of things to feel content about.

Waking up (for starters) because you have a new day ahead of you.

The smell of coffee brewing. The way the warm cup feels in your hands.
A moment, gazing out the window while you sip it.

A person in your life you love - any person - the details don't matter, do they?
A person in your life who loves you - any person, relationship, details unimportant
And if you are very truly lucky you love each other (not as common as one would think). Lots of people love someone who doesn't love them back the same way. Or at all. Or with the same depth. Again it doesn't really matter what relationship is - you and your mother/father/brother/sister/friend/husband/wife/child/boy/girlfriend.

It's the love not the relationship.

You'd be surprised (we'd all be surprised) at how very many people go thru life never loving or feeling loved or never feeling loved the same way they love someone.

If you have any or all of those sorts of love you have one of the best foundations of contentment.

Decide to do one thing in the day - just one thing - you feel good about.  Something at home, at work, in your community. For a neighbor, friend, family member, stranger. Doesn't have to be large or dynamic. Doesn't have to be noticed. The point is that it made you feel good. That it made you smile to yourself.  Contentment.

See how easy contentment is to find? Not like that primadonna happiness, lol

Of course you have to choose to find contentment too. Nothing (but nothing) (except maybe for bills lol) will just appear - and contentment is no different. But it abounds every day all day unlike happiness. Think wren vs peacock ratio.  How many wrens do you see in a day? How many peacocks?

There were days (oh there were more than days) I used to wonder why I didn't feel 'happy'. And it made me feel inadequate, sad, cheated, angry, empty, frustrated, pissed, misunderstood. When I decided to take my heart in hand and go a-seeking contentment my days became so full of things to count I was surprised. Surprised at all I found. Surprised how much better I felt (and yes of course I have crap days, lol)  Nobody has only good days. But nobody has only awful days either. It's just a bad, bad (really bad) habit that we as a society have developed to think we should/could/will ever be 'happy' all the time. I was on the top of the list of happiness seeking addicts, so I know...

But year after year on the farm I watched crops, seasons, life, death, priorities dancing and dueling . A lot of years,j a great deal of thinking. Years taking my own internal inventory. Years of being honest and realistic with my own self  taught me the difference between happiness and contentment. Taught me the value and reliability - and availability - of both of them.

I'll take my glass (any part full) of simple contentment over an empty glass waiting to be filled with  'happiness' any day - seven days a week, twenty four hours a day.

So there you have it, my heart, my thoughts. My words for what they're worth. Hold close what may help you ~ sweep aside what does not ~ either way, thank you for reading....
Rough draft excerpt from the upcoming book
Copyright 2013


Tami said...

Excellent post! Happy is as happy does...Kind of the do unto other's logic. If you're dishing out good vibes than happiness surrounds you.

Contentment is that low hum that both SM and I feel keeps us together. We don't over think it, but we recognize that we're lucky that we're best friends. Always have been, always will.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Amen, sister.